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ACB objects to Bakili Muluzi’s application

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The Anti-Corruption Bureau yesterday objected to former President Bakili Muluzi and Lyness Whiskey lawyers’ application to have a K1.7 billion corruption case discharged.

Instead, the graft-busting body, through one of its officers Chrispine Khunga, asked the court to give the state four weeks to organise its prosecution team and identify lead counsel.

One of the three state lawyers, ACB Deputy Director Reyneck Matemba, recused himself from the case last week citing personal reasons, a development which prompted the defence to ask the court to discharge Muluzi and Whiskey.

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But Khunga, who is not part of the known prosecution team and was just sent to deliver the message of objection, told the court sitting in Kamwambe’s chamber that the state is willing to prosecute the matter.

He also told the court that the state is planning to re-engage one of the prosecutors, private practice lawyer Clement Mwala whose contract with the ACB expired about three weeks ago.

“But the process [of re-engaging Mwala] involves other departments,” Khunga said.

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Matemba’s recusal and Mwala’s contract expiry technically left ACB prosecutor Imran Saidi as the only state lawyer remaining.

However, the defence team of Tamando Chokotho and Jai Banda said the prosecution is not serious and there is no guarantee that Mwala will accept the re-engagement.

“By discharging accordingly you might be making the most difficult decision in your life. We know your hands are tied but it is the law of justice and fairness. Should the state be serious, there are provisions which should allow them to re-open the case. Today, we would have accepted new counsel to take over the matter. But counsel Khunga is not taking over,” Chokotho told the court.

He said Matemba’s application for recusal also applied to Saidi and that explains the reasons for Saidi’s absence from court yesterday.

“If counsel Saidi is still in the prosecution team, no reason has been given for his failure to be here,” he said.

Chokotho also said the ACB engaged Mwala, who was introduced as lead counsel on the first day of first state witness Victor Banda’s cross-examining, about few months ago and it was lack of state seriousness to have his contract expire just few weeks into the case.

“That Mwala has resigned has not been proven to the court and the state counsel only has the word of mouth. The state is failing to proceed due to internal lapses and misunderstanding,” the defence said.

Kamwambe said, for the record purposes, he will make his printed decision on the matter on Tuesday next week but the four weeks for the state to reconstitute the prosecution team started running yesterday.

He said the trial shall proceed from June 8 to June 17 and thereafter from July 25 to August 12.

There are 15 corruption-related charges against Muluzi but Whiskey is answering three.

Muluzi, who ruled Malawi from 1994 to 2004, is being accused of misappropriating public funds between 1999 and 2005.

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